The Dharma Proceeds
Practicing the Dharma is going to change you and your fundamental basis. If the Old Model of EgoCentric Living doesn’t seem to satisfy. Maybe change the furniture a little, or knock down the old house and build a new one somewhere else.
If we are based in Self Cherishing Thought then the Dharma is capable of providing a new paradigm that is in accordance with Actual Reality. Not our own version of Reality based on the Four Samsaric Principles of Samsaric Mind. Ignorance, Desire, Attachment and Suffering. Depending on how this basic principle is aligned is our own Karma. Our own particular way of seeing within the Self Cherishing Thought at the Root or the ‘I’ Thought.
Our way of seeing is facilitated by Perception, that Perception comes from our SubConscious. Which is formed from the Past and manifests in the Pre-Sent Experience.
Also the True Cause of this is Ignorance so this means our true problem remains untouched we can change the surface level many times. Fill Emptiness with many Attachments, Desires, Hatreds, Prides and walk around with a huge ‘I AM’ Complex. But that isn’t the actual path to Freedom.
The Manifest Experience is the Enlightened Mind Mirroring, but confused through lack of Wisdom into basic principles of Actual Reality. We see it wrong and get caught in many types of Games, that are actually just circular motions, Perceptions cause a spinning motion, once it stops with a calm cup of tea we might see the Game.
It’s simply the Mind as the whole Reality. Mind Proceeds all. Cutting through the simple machinations of Ignorance can happen, but we have to Sacrifice the ‘I AM’ Complex which feeds the whole game round and round, further Attachment can be made.
This Reality is Emptiness. Trying to Fill it up, Change it, Knock it Down, Rebuild it. Emptiness Before, Emptiness Again. Always Emptiness.
Emptiness in an Enlightened Sense.
Without Mind there is literally No-Thing
In the last 6 months in addition to my Pure Land Faith that is Other Power, I have embraced the Mahayana Buddhism of the Bodhisattva Way. Pure Land Faith is based in Dharmakara Bodhisattva and the Mind of Shinjin is Amida/Dharmakara’s Mind directed to the individual, both working and embracing the individual. Above all, it is a Realisation of Amida and total Trust from the Ignorant being who is made up of nothing other than Karmic Evil. Dependent on the Bodhisattva element given to him the person of Indestructible Faith in Amida can look forward to Birth in the Pure Land through an entirely salvific teaching that is also a Realisation, not a hope or belief. It is Adamantine.
I embraced the Tantric Methods of the Secret or Esoteric Mantrayana as part of my journey. I can feel the spirit of the Bodhisattva Way in these practices, it is a perfect solution to all of the current ills of the world, that is sinking into Degeneracy in this Age. It is like Pure Land and all of the Mahayana pointing at the Self-Cherishing Thought as the Cause of all problems. The Dharma of Wisdom and Compassion based in seeking to love others as human beings is like a cool spring in the arid wilderness of confusion and imbalance that the world is in, true chaos.
If we look to the Dharma we can find the answers to such confusion, also we can balance our minds and find a sanctuary of sanity and awakenedness.
But we have to face our Shadow our Ignorance. Also our Fear. It’s all actually within ourselves and we project all of this onto others and blame them.
We need Compassion though and through simple Buddha Recitation we can find not only the Cause of Buddhahood but also Great Compassion as an Active Component of Dharmakaya, directed to the individual and not letting them go.
My Experience with Tantra or Mantrayana is it points to the Reality of Mind. That all Experience whether Samsaric or Nibbanic is Mind. Literally without Mind there is nothing. It’s been Mind all along. This then points to Non-Duality or Oneness. In Mind there is no Self and Other, just Mind if we hurt another we are actually hurting our own Mind, also in Non-Duality this points to the Reality of Emptiness.
Beyond Mind there is Nothing we are experiencing Samsara, yet through eliminating Causes we can Experience Nibbana. Though Others have their own Reality also. All Experience is taking place in the Mind-Only, everything within it and nothing beyond it.
Simple Buddha Recitation, is to enter the Vow-Power of Amida Buddha, whether we recite with Self Effort expecting the Buddha to save us within the 20th Vow of Amida, or we receive the Mind of Faith in Amida in the 18th Vow of Jodo Shinshu. It is a worthwhile effort that can offer some medicine to all of the difficulties faced in this difficult age.
Fame is Self-Attachment
Disgrace is Self-Attachment
Gain is Self-Attachment
Loss is Self-Attachment
Praise is Self-Attachment
Blame is Self-Attachment
Happiness is Self-Attachment
Suffering is Self-Attachment
Awaken to Amida, Be Reared by Amida’s Ancient Vow, Summoned to the Pure Land
Samsara a vivid dream, plays back and forth with Amida
Disappear into the night alone to the Pure Land itself
Leaving behind a settled mind, a settled birth
My experience as a Pure Land Buddhist is that it is the most difficult of Buddhist Teachings to accept. My old tradition of which I was a monk is the Theravada, by comparison is easy to accept. You simply take up a method, say watching the breath, see the nature of it, develop mindfulness around it, awaken to it, develop concentration and insight through it, it is possible for it to take you all the way to Nirvana in this body, dependent on past karma.
I as someone in this degenerate age turned my back on this simple but effective teaching, due to hard experience as an ascetic monk in my early twenties as what can be simply be described as ‘getting nowhere’.
I disrobed in the early part of this millennium and turned to the local bars and music and became hedonistic for three whole years. This can also be described as hard experience. That feeling at the end of the night, no meaning total confusion, surrounded by evil friends, dragging me to evil places and leaving me there, only to pick myself up to wake up, look in the mirror and not like what I saw!
I had some dharma experience as a monk and knew the dharma was true. So this provided comfort and fuel for an absolute decision to come to ‘Go for Refuge’. Once all of my various constructs that held me back had sufficiently fallen apart.
So January 2008 I chose to recite Amitabha as my practice having no idea how long I would be able to sustain an effort like that or whether or not my efforts would be successful this time.
Once the Buddha Embraces he doesn’t let go. This is an important point to understand. This is a teaching of Other Power. Even if we are reciting with Self Effort, it is Other Power that makes the Pure Land teaching work. As Krishnamurti rather arrogantly said, you might as well be saying ‘Coca-Cola’. I can’t agree with that and refute it. Dharma practices have inherent power. The Ego is made up of Delusion and Evil. If all you want to do is still the mind try hypnosis. This is a matter of liberation from Birth and Death. The only point that really matters on a deep level, the state of the world, politics and other matters are soon to be in the rear view mirror. What we do now though is even more important because of that!
The Pure Land teaching is hard to accept, difficult to grasp and settle in the mind. The Buddha Amitabha chooses the individual not the other way round, through past conditions.
If that is the case we would go through any obstacle and walk through hell in order to be born in the Pure Land and not waste time. Through aspiration given by the Buddha to fulfill our aims and potential.
As we are aware there are many problems in our lives, other peoples lives, everyone has their own condition. Part of the unelightened state is to think we are at the centre of things to a greater or lesser degree and other people revolve around us and our problems. The actual cold reality is everybody has their own condition, usually suffering from and countering and solving the latest problems that have presented themselves.
I am not a pessimist and don’t view life in a bleak way, Maitreya Bodhisattva stated in a scripture somewhere that the middle way is not laughing or crying. Whilst life has it’s problems, it also has it’s wonderful qualities, which are personal to each of us. Also how hard work can result in wonderful solutions to life’s problems, how certain relationships can deepen in a loving embrace.
But the Middle Way is not laughing or crying, it the pathway beyond the world of self-awareness. In the case of Jodo Shinshu, it is going for refuge to Amida, with Other Power, Mind Light. The Middle Way is not laughing or crying, it is knowing.
We also know as Spiritual People of various persuasions that life has problems to counter and solve, to respond and react to.
Where are these problems coming from???
We solve them like repeatedly sweeping hot coals of our head as if someone or something was dropping them down. But these are symptoms not the cause. We are solving the symptoms of the problem and not focusing on the fundamental cause. Which is the Fundamental Problem of Existence, which the historical Buddha recognised on the night of his awakening, as Tanha, translate Desire. This is traced back to Avijja, translate Ignorance.
To recognise the Fundamental Problem of Existence, is to recognise the Cause not the Symptoms.
A Hinayana Buddhist seeks to meditate in the same way as Shakyamuni Buddha to See the Cause and finally dispel it, transcend it, uproot it.
In my case it is just to know that there is a fundamental problem. Not to get too perplexed with the symptoms, that constantly are expressed and arise.
Entrusting to Amida’s Inconceivable Vow, means other-power-awareness in this life and hearing the name. Being awakened to the Reality of Amida and the Reality of Karmic Evil, namely the fundamental problem of existence.
The solution to this problem is to awaken and realise Faith in Amida, the Inconceivable Vow as the Working which will take care of the problem of life on Birth in the Pure Land.
That is to be in the group of the Truly Settled and Rightly Assured State. To Entrust to Amida and to root ourselves in Other Power by going for Refuge to Peaceful Awareness, given by the Buddha through his dynamic working.
When we get ourselves into a certain position, we may find ourselves in a position to help others. Say for example I might offer the Nembutsu to another to help them in their karmic struggle.
But if we are in Amida’s embrace and Mind Light we can see that perhaps with our mind of self-power we are just egotistically trying to craft another person in our own image.
I’ve had help from others on my spiritual path, sometimes it’s been obvious that the end goal of the other person is a carbon copy of them. I’ve noticed this in myself when in a position of helping others. ‘Just do what I did, like I did, how I did it and you’ll be fine’. However let’s look at the results of that effort on someone and we could humbly knowledge that it failed repeatedly. Sometimes the individual who drank at your well, might be in worse shape than if they might of avoided you all together. Just look at the History and see how it repeats itself cyclicly.
That is why Fundamentalists are so dangerous, despite it failing lots of times, refusing to adapt the medicine, usually force-fed, instead of it not working, it’s usually the recipients fault for not ‘getting it’.
If your path is the only true one, which is a great danger of the fundamentalist thinking of the Buddha’s and other spiritual teachings based in our own image. Then we are shamelessly incapable of empathy and compassion.
Entrusting to Amida Buddha you will attain the Great Nirvana at the moment of Death with Birth into the Pure Land.
My advice to others would be, Recite the Buddha’s Name so as to be saved by Amida Buddha.
Let the working of Great Compassion which understands your Karma, guide you in your life on the way to the Pure Land.
As someone who says the Nembutsu, I might be guilty of making you into my own image egotistically. Due to my own limited vision. So awaken to the working of the inconceivable vow, dharmakaya as compassion. Through Dharmakara Bodhisattva’s 5 aeons of profound thought. The Pure Land is truly the merciful teaching in the Age of Dharma Decline.
All I can do is write this and drop a few seeds of the Nembutsu, Pure Land Dharma within. It’s a worthwhile painstaking effort. But I have limited vision due to Entrusting to Other Power and Amida, so what I can achieve in this lifetime is drastically limited. I follow the intent of Amida’s Vow single-mindedly, whatever the circumstances, without escape. I am happy doing so, in the embrace of Great Compassion.
Namo Amida Butsu
What is the awakened mind showing us, Amitabha’s mind light, is mindfulness/awareness in Jodo Shinshu, also refuge and peace, the safe harbour. I work in a creative field a lot of the time I am problem solving, engaged in the world, not going for refuge. Because the refuge is Other Power, whether I focus on it or not, it remains present. When I stop my engagement with the world, I go for refuge, but the mind of engagement is tenacious.
The Mind-Light of Amida is an aspect of Jodo Shinshu, Peaceful Awareness, it shows us in stark reality, that the mind of ego, my way, ignorance is founded on delusion, has delusion at it’s root which is the foundation of greed and hatred. To put it succinctly it is the mind of Karmic Evil.
This mind is a prison that Amida will break open the door of the jail. If we are locked within it, we will follow evil, powered by delusion and create evil karma continuously. This is Samsara, also it isn’t real it is a mind based reality of falsity that arises and ceases, an illusion a frequency that we are bonded to. The law of Karma should be feared. Yet we don’t awaken, we are enthralled by this mind projection. For the Enlightened Ones cutting delusion at it’s root and crossing to the other shore, Nibbana, is the only solution and is the safe-harbour.
Most people are unaware of the dangers and that is why we are known as ignorant beings filled with blind passions, also wretched beings. Sometimes I get a glimpse of the wretched aspect. I can laugh at my own Ignorance, foolishness, how it encompasses everything. A simple mind projection. We are hypnotized, by our attachments and our own worlds, we have our way, we are at the centre. Yet did we question as to whether we are actually right???
We are still here, hypnotized by ignorance, confused by delusion, living my way, laying down the karma for further debts to be paid, debts of thought, speech and action of body.
So can we make a decision to enter the path of Amitabha, of reciting the Nembutsu, or do we prefer to slander the Buddha’s out of our own conceited thinking??
Amitabha is known as the Great Consoler, he can save through his Inconceivable Vow any living being. We can be led to him through various circumstance. Maybe we have exhausted all options. Maybe we have our own idea of what success is. Our mind is constantly projecting it’s own idea. Yet it is none other than the mind of karmic evil, our jailer, our prison.
Reciting the Buddha’s Name with Other Power Faith once is enough!!!
Reciting Many Times with Self Power Faith is better to go to the Pure Power of the Vow. We can then expect Amitabha to come and escort us to his Pure Land. Where we can finally find safety.
The best trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist!!!
The fundamental nature of unenlightened consciousness is Delusion, it is the parent and driving force behind Greed & Hatred, it can also be called Ignorance.
Whilst no-one’s watching we can be naughty, behind closed doors, closed curtains, no-one will ever know!!
The historical Buddha fought Mara in his mind, whilst Mara the King Demon, Devil or Ego personification, tried to convince the Buddha he was getting it wrong in all sorts of ways, offering temptations, allures, deceptions of all kinds to prevent the Buddha’s enlightenment and the spiritual experience of which Buddhism was born in this era, world-system.
Demons/Ego have three weapons, Antagonism, Deception and Malevolence.
The simple Dharma point I want to make is on our level the fundamental quality of our minds is Delusion. Yet the World doesn’t inform us, instead it blindly runs on the stuff. We probably don’t know that we are fundamentally deluded. Because it takes another form of wholesome spiritual consciousness, awakened consciousness to actually Recognise this quality.
This quality Delusion is in reality the cause of all our problems within us, and as a consequence outside of us, it literally comes from there. It is spiritual blindness, wrong seeing, wrong view, wrong understanding with ‘Me’ at the Centre, which is also Deluded!!!
Yet we continue to be bound to this force and the whole mass of suffering because of Delusion.
Yet the greatest trick it ever played was to convince us It Doesn’t Exist!!!
The Demons of the Pre-Enlightened Buddha tried to deceive the Buddha, prior to his Sartori and Full Enlightenment. Yet the Buddha continued and overcame.
So, I would advise seeking out a wholesome form of awakened consciousness to show you the way things are.
My practice the last month or so has gone through a shift and a breakthrough in orientation. Previously I was focused on hearing the name a fundamentally important aspect of Faith. But I shifted internally to focus on the Mindfulness/Peaceful Awareness aspect of Faith.
It was always there within, but chose not to focus on it on a deep level. However through some difficulty I went through which led me to the point of decision and finding the way forwards. I had immersed myself in an endeavour for two years which has since diminished. It was fairly intensive. Stopping left me bereft and a bit short and I couldn’t find a solution to aid what was a transition period. Until it became obvious, naturally to re-orientate internally and go for refuge.
Like a small boat journeying through a little ravine, revealed the vast green mountains. I went for refuge to Amida Buddha and the Pure Land, the Land of Naturalness, allowing Peaceful Awareness, Mindfulness, Sati-Sampajanna, to be the focus. A true refuge.
Faith seems to me to sit on the precipice between this shore and the other shore – Nibbana. The Karmic Reality and the Nibbana Dhatu or Element. The Inconceivable Vow is the tether where Faith is possible. Hearing the Name comes from the Vow, Faith comes from the Vow and is in the Vow, Awakenedness, Light, comes from the Vow, Deep Mind and Entrusting is caused by the Vow. Knowing this reality as one of Karmic Evil is the right object of the Vow. The Pure Land itself manifests from the 48 vows. Amitabha Buddha himself waits for Samsara to be exhausted before finally taking Parinibbana because of his 48 Vows.
Faith is in perfect harmony with true understanding of the Four Noble Truths, there is the Reality of Dharma based on Right View and the Reality of Suffering based on Ignorance. In Pure Land terms that is the Reality of the Inconceivable Vow and the Reality of Karmic Evil, totally black & white. The Inconceivable Vow is the Mind of Dharma directed towards the individual in a very specific way, hence we call it Other Power. It also performs a very specific function to guide and totally save the living being from Samsara so they can be born in the Pure Land, which is Nibbana.
The Vow then is the perfect vehicle of the Mahayana, beyond indefatigable.
The important point I want to make is Peaceful Awareness is on the precipice of Refuge, Mindfulness and the Reality of Karmic Evil. This is Right View.
Right View keeps a living being from following Evil Paths. So Amida stops us from going down dark paths and saves us. Although we may still do so due to our particular Karma. We are still constantly embraced. Beings of the Hinayana also with Right View are protected by the Dharma.
The intensive endeavour I was involved in was exploring the problems of the world, which was highly compelling. However we can say. Why is the world like this?? Because living beings follow evil, incite evil, due to Wrong View. They see benefit in it, they have wrong seeing and are totally blind. Acting out of Spiritual Blindness is the Cause of Problems.
This is a problem that can only be solved on an individual level, beings have to find their own refuge. We can’t look for a ‘New Earth’, that is stupid! But we can transmit to others. The world is an incitement of Karmic Evil fuelled by a lack of clarity and Wrong View. The solution is to find a reality that is already peaceful, infinite and liberated, that is Nibbana or Birth in the Pure Land.
Birth in the Pure Land is non-attainment of anything.
Shinjin or Faith in Amida is an Attainment based in the 18th Vow of Pure Land Buddhism. The important point is what is the object of Faith, what is Shinjin telling the practitioner.
I read John Paraskevoupolos’ writing on Genso-Eko last night which you can read here.
He broke down Shinjin as Faith in what I will call The Amida Principle. Enlightenment is Dharmakaya-as-Suchness, Amida is Dharmakaya-as-Compassion. Which means The mind of Enlightenment directed to the individual, embracing the individual, dynamically working in a very specific way. This could also be called The Original Vow or Other Power.
Faith or Shinjin is based in this, the other shore, where Dharmakaya-as-Compassion echoes the Nembutsu, constantly embracing the individual, also giving Amida’s Light, definitively showing the individual a dual awakening to Amida and Karmic Reality, which is also Deep Mind. Also the Mind of Entrusting to that Reality of Amida. Already Crossed Over to the Other Shore. Giving an inner foundation, so the individual is saved going to the Pure Land at Death, assured of Birth, decided and also The settlement of Faith in the individual. A settled mind regarding this matter. Faith is settled.
So in Genso-Eko in John’s writing this is Amida, or the Amida principle, Dharmakaya-as-Compassion, continuing to work in communion with the individual, ongoing saving person after person, therefore returning to this world.
The Object of Faith isn’t the Western Pure Land, or Amida as Samboghakaya, Reward Body or the Story of Dharmakara Bodhisattva.
So how did Amida originate? How did the Original Vow emerge?
Was it through 5 kalpas of profound thought by Dharmakara Bodhisattva? Or did Dharmakaya-as-Suchness which does possess intelligence, decide to give individual’s particularly in the darker end times we now live a gateway, a pathway to liberation?
Did Shinran state that the Western Pure Land is indeed a Nibbanic Realm filled with Buddha’s, Bodhisattva’s and that Amida is also Samboghakaya??
These are contested subjects in Jodo Shinshu, all I will say regarding the first point, is intuitively I think Dharmakaya-as-Suchness, manifested as Dharmakaya-as-Compassion through it’s own Compassionate volition, the story of Dharmakara is myth, but is more true than even if it actually happened.
As regards The Western Pure Land being a manifested realm and Amida also having form in The Pure Land, this isn’t the object of Faith, that is the Amida Principle. But If the Cause is Pure, The Effect is Pure. Faith in Amida then Amida as Sambogakaya is one then two before Birth in the Pure Land, After Birth Two yet One.
Shinran stated in the Kyo Gyo Shin Sho that these manifested aspects do exist, and I would concur that most of the 48 vows deal with manifested aspects of the Pure Land. Therefore we have Faith in these Vows, so one then two, but not as the direct object of Shinjin in this life, as secondary aspects to the Amida principle Dharmakaya-as-Compassion. Where Amida in this life takes form as the Nembutsu.
Namu Amida Butsu
I started reciting the Buddha’s name in Jan ’08, I did so for 8 days, after that I made a Vow, determination that is still true today, due to what I now know as the working of the Original Vow, Amitabha’s Dharma Vehicle.
On doing this, I had exhausted all other possibilities, due to what had gone before. This is indeed fertile ground to receive Amitabha’s embrace and grasp and not forsaking, to begin a journey that has no possibility of failure, despite all the personal failure that had passed before. Why? Because the Original Vow cannot fail. It is infinitely more powerful than our Karmic Minds / Reality, our petty Ego and general unilluminated struggle.
Because if we have no other frame of reference, no other gauge than our Egoic one, how do we know where we are at? We need something ‘Other’ than that, some light of Awareness. Otherwise we will remain in our unknown struggle for a long time. Prey for various predators, or we become the Predators. Do we even know what this reality is??? If we did we would act immediately!! It’s a secret for now, but I’ll drop a few hints, maybe you might do something, maybe you won’t. Solving the symptoms not the cause is prevalent these days. Discernment is lacking, nobody tells you to develop it, clarity is unnecessary, critical thinking not needed.
To reach a place of decision to embark on the Nembutsu Way is to exhaust all possibilities. That is the entrance point to the White Path. Someone will be against you, maybe a lot of people, they will tell you not to go. It’s O.k this is the entrance to the White Path, it happened there too.
Amitabha will summon you forwards through Aspiration put in your heart mind, not through a ‘channelling’. No this is grounded and stable, you follow the call, then the caller reveals itself, deep within as the mind of Enlightenment, dynamically working. People won’t believe you, but it’s a deep reality both within and beyond this world, where Nibbana is, or the Pure Land.
Most people can’t hear this Dharma: Because of the layers of Ego-Ignorance, that has them in it’s magical thrall, a castle with turrets, defended by soldiers with arrows, shooting from the turrets.
Amitabha is trying to break through, knowing the time to do so, through his perfect Dharma Vehicle, The Original Vow, the Name, the Light, which is Refuge, Mindfulness, Peaceful Awareness and the Deep Mind of Shinjin. Trust to that Reality, of Compassion, Altruism, Perfection, Awakenedness to this Karmic, Defiled Reality and the Buddha-Centred Reality.
Here is the Parable of the Two Rivers and the White Path
Show a confused, ignorant person something of true value, they will think it like dross.
Show a confused, ignorant person something of no value, they will think it like gold.
A big issue with a lot of current day spiritual matters pertains to Dualistic Faith or Non Dualistic Faith. All worthwhile spiritual practices point to the One-Mind, the True Nature, that underlies our mind of Kilesa, Karmic Evil, Ignorance the Cause of Suffering.
It’s like the concept of God, is the Faith based in someone up in the sky, or is the reality of Buddha-Nature deep within, or God as it is called in Hinduism. The experience of Christianity and the Holy Spirit and say Hare-Krishna might point to a Non-Dual Faith with various manifestations that are Mind-Made as Shakyamuni Buddha taught, everything is Mind, Mind leads the way. It is all Mind.
If our Faith is based on a Western Pure Land and a Transcendent Buddha external to us, then it is Dualistic, it is an attachment it is not Faith or Entrusting to the Original Vow, settled, grounded, decided.
That is not to say that there aren’t manifestations of the Original Vow. The entirety of Samsara is a manifestation arising and ceasing, albeit a distortion though Karmic Evil and Ignorance, hence we suffer and don’t see the things the way they really are. But if we had no Ignorance, it would be arising and ceasing with absolute natural clarity. As Anandamayi Ma said experiencing the lila of the Formless taking Form.
So I’m not denying the manifestation of Samsara, it is an illusion however, a Dream a mirror to actual Reality, Truth the Dharma.
Those grasped and embraced by Amida Buddha, hear the Name through the Original Vow. This is Amida Buddha taking form in this world. Also his light gives the individual embraced enduring Mindfulness and Deep Mind awakened to the Reality of Karmic Evil and the Reality of the Original Vow also Deep Entrusting to that reality, the end of Self-Power and total reliance on the dynamic working of Amida Buddha.
Faith in that aspect is Entrusting to the Original Vow. There are 48 Vows which also manifest the Pure Land, Reward Land and Amida Buddha’a Reward Body. But I can’t say that my faith is dualistic in having only Faith in the manifestation. The Faith in the Manifestation is secondarily accepted, but not denied. If our Faith is only in an external world, or a manifested form and not grounded and settled in the dynamic working of the Original Vow, then it is just an attachment of Self-Power.
The Pure Land as a manifested form is also like Samsara, a Dream, a Manifestation of the Original Vow. Whereas Samsara is an arising and ceasing of phenomena with the distorted, inverted, perverted mind of Ignorance keeping us bonded to it. The Pure Land also is an Arising and Ceasing, but without the Ignorance. The True Faith is grounded, tethered to an actual living relationship to Amida and his Vow.
Faith is the Buddha-Centred Reality and the Reality of Karmic Evil, that Saichi in his poems, spoke of the relationship between Saichi and Amida. He was not speaking of Saichi and an attachment to an external world outside. The Pure Land is found inside. Faith in the Original Vow is one, The Westen Pure Land is then two, but it is Nibbana so really it is within, already grasping and embracing us, Ignorant beings filled with blind passions.
Once born in the Pure Land all is two yet one, the Original Vow, Dharmakaya as Suchness and the manifestations, Amida Buddha, but unified as Oneness, just as it would be for a being who attains Enlightenment in this world.
It’s all One, it’s just our Ignorant Mind causes Attachments and Dualism. Non Dualistic Faith is rooted in the Dharma deep within of the Original Vow. I also think the same holds true for Christianity, Hinduism. We need to root ourselves in the Actual Grounded Reality of the Original Vow, Buddha Nature, True Nature, Krishna Consciousness, The Holy Spirit, whatever you call it.
And of course Buddhism is pointing going beyond the World, beyond the Triple Realm, beyond Samsara to the Other Shore, where the Pure Land actually is. The transcendent mind to my knowledge has both the function of deep within and going beyond
Particularly in this Age we need some other form of Mind than just the Mind of Ego, Karmic Evil, Kilesa, which as the Historical Buddha taught Is the Cause of Suffering, just look at your life, the World and if you haven’t had an insight into that, then there is the proof.
I’m aware that the last few posts were a bit on the hardline side of things. I used to be a Monk in the Thai Forest Tradition from the age of 20. I think one of the main teachings I received there was really to get on with practice. Also as an ex-hedonist sat in my meditation hut with only a breath watching exercise and the mantra Buddho and the inspiring stories of the Thai Forest Arahants. I soon discovered that following a fairly ascetic path, deprived of the usual array of sense-data and stimulation that I had grown accustomed to. Also all of the comforts of standard well-to-do western upbringing, the Mind changes.
Once deprived with only the breath and Buddho as a combatant, the Mind starts displaying a side hitherto unseen. It gets angry and all kinds of mental states that otherwise would safely remain inactive. If you’ve participated on a lay meditation retreat you’ll be able to empathise. Well I did it for 5 hard years.
I love it when I tell people I used to be a Monk, I usually get a rose-tinted look in the persons eyes, full of romance, they say “What was that like?”. They start hoping that I was sequestered in the Himalayas, maybe Tibet. Met the Dalai Lama and beautiful stuff like that. Well I was based in Warwickshire and walking round the same Nature Reserve for five years, although not withstanding the lovely bluebells in springtime, it gets a bit…..
Point being there’s a reason to being a Monk and that point in the Thai Forest Tradition, is to develop Insight with the aid of Samadhi and transform your experience from a mundane experience to a supramundane one. I couldn’t get that as a Monk, I did gain a considerable amount from it. Essentially though after disrobing it was back to square one.
So three dark, destructive and hopelessly lost years hence, I took my own brand of chaos around Samsara, basically the Pubs in Warwick, playing music, not dealing with anything, incapable of anything else. I did do three months of Buddha Shakyamuni Recollection that I learned as a Monk. Which was in stark contrast to my general activities.
It’s a funny thing Karma, what we are capable of, what we are incapable of at a given time. Yet calamity soon struck in lots of different beautiful Dharma Messenger forms and the entire consequence of three years of badly directed worldly effort got me back to square one, again. This time though I got it right, I began Buddha Recitation. Decided to recite ‘Amitabha’ and did so for 8 days solid.
My Dharma Journey began, there was life to it, there were results for the effort, there were insights, there were Dharma experiences, there was momentum.
The Pure Land Path has it’s own Power, it is based on the 48 great Vows, that is Other Power, the mind of Dharmakaya, activated, dynamic. It is real, it is genuine, beyond Doubt. It is safe, free from danger. It is simple, it is easy to accomplish. It is for anybody.
Call out to this Buddha with a mind of Sincerity and Profound Respect, he will decide, knowing your karma inside and out, whether it is the right time, to enter the Pure Land Gate.
Just recite the Buddha’s Name, in order to be saved by this Buddha. Seek Birth in the Western Pure Land, the Land of Utmost Bliss. Free yourself from great danger.
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Most fundamental reason why we are bonded to the Triple Realm is Bonno. Simply it’s the darkness of our mind, unawake we are acting through it, it infuses everything, we see everything through it’s all pervasive filter. We think we are ‘me’, searching for positive experience, running from painful experience, searching for relief, but fundamentally not recognising this quality within ourselves.
It’s actually caught us for an inexorable amount of time and it drives us to difficulty repeatedly. Sometimes very serious difficulty.
We think we are here to have a good time, serve and strengthen our ego, yet this is precisely the predicament we have been asleep to for so long. Not getting it, not seeing a glimpse of the Buddhist Mind, the Refuge, becoming arrogant, following vanity, or settling for hatred and bitterness.
We think we are ‘me’ doing this, yet we don’t know the way things are.
We think we are ‘good’ people, yet we can’t bear to recognise the turbulent mind within ourselves, instead just act from it, causing harm to ourselves and others, becoming reckless, getting caught up in some form of notoriety, that strengthens our ego. Becoming like a Demon in human form, with rapacious lust and rampant hatred.
All of the problems exist outside of ourselves, we can’t bear to take responsibility for our own reality, it’s somebody else’s fault outside. But we can’t look at the mind within that is the Actual Cause of Suffering, whilst we can’t do that, we can’t progress spiritually.
I’ve met a lot of people who are scared to practice the Dharma because they are scared to go through the hardships of facing the darkest aspects of themselves. It’s like the Titanic sinking instead of jumping in a lifeboat to safety which is an inevitable arduous journey in itself, they would rather rearrange the deck chairs on board the Titanic as it sinks.
Obviously the Dharma is a wonderful reality, Unconditional Love, Utmost Bliss, but in order to progress there has to be some risk, some sacrifice, by the individual.
I read once that the path to Samma-Sambuddhahood, start with an act of sacrifice, sometimes extreme. Yet Amitabha out of compassion offers everybody a simple way, explicitly, yet because of doubt, we put it to one side. Because we don’t understand.
It comes down to the development of the Spiritual mind of affinity. We develop this over many lifetimes without doubt. We pick up next time where we left off. That is why Shakyamuni Buddha is the Nirmanakaya Buddha of this age, through 500 lifetime as a Bodhisattva, beginning with his act of sacrifice to Dipankara Buddha. A Great being like Ramana Maharshi attains Enlightenment at a young age spontaneously. This is Special, but not in a ‘Oh he’s Special’ Ego way. It is because of previous cultivation and his mature spiritual mind.
Those associated with Amitabha can rejoice at long association from the past.
So nothing is in Vain in this kind of effort.
Just recite the Name to be saved by Amitabha Buddha.
He made it the ‘Easy Path of Practice’ out of the Mind of Great Compassion.
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There are some rare beings in this Age of Mappo, the Age of Decadent Dharma, that have little dust in their eyes, some have cleared the dust away altogether. However these are so rare, they are like a star at daytime.
It takes many kalpas of self-effort to clean the dust and filth of our ignorant self. Enlightenment is already within us, we don’t need to look outside for ‘it’. It’s deep within waiting to be revealed, beneath the heavy weight of karmic evil, ignorance, tumultuous desire, raging passions and the fog of nescience. Keeping us bound to the yoke of the illusory triple realm, transmigration, the playing out of our karmic existences, that bind to us inexorably through every thought, speech and action of myriad kalpas, inconceivable.
We should respect all Dharma practitioners deeply, but I would urge to deeply weigh up your own spiritual capacity.
To hear of the Pure Land teaching isn’t by chance, if we hear of it from a good friend, we should take our opportunity, through the working of Amitabha Buddha’s Great Compassionate Mind of Mahayana Buddhism, seeking birth in the land of Utmost Bliss, through simple Buddha Recitation.
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To be involved the the Pure Land teaching is a great blessing. Amitabha deliberately made the entry point as easy as possible. Everybody is welcome no matter their circumstances, whether they are ordained, or lay, male of female, old or young, quite brilliant or someone who views themselves as a failure.
The whole Pure Land teaching is based on Amitabha’s mind seeking to save everybody through the simplest of means, understanding through perfect wisdom the great inherent dangers of the triple realm, samsara and compassionately raising the 48 great vows, for ordinary beings to receive a great blessing through by design a simple practice, simple teaching.
To slander this teaching is a great mistake.
However even in the darkest nights of our soul we do so, the Buddha’s power is so great, he can transform even the gravest error into the greatest blessing.
We should respect all valuable, worthwhile, nourishing spiritual paths for the benefits that they create for the individual, respect each others own journey, empathise with their choices based on their own force and working of past karma and the power inherent in the spiritual path they are attracted to.
That’s why I’m opposed to a fundamentalist approach, which seeks to crush others decisions, is devoid of empathy and understanding to the individiual and is simply the force of ‘my way’. It’s an expression of the limitations of the self-centred Karmic reality and the ego blending itself into a teaching which transmits a great blessing. Also it does great harm to both self and other and misses the bigger picture by some considerable distance.
If an individual has practiced the Bodhisattva vehicle for many lifetimes, you can’t coerce that individual to the 18th Vow, they are already on their journey. If an individual has cultivated the Hinayana for a length of time, likewise. There’s a lot involved in why we make the spiritual choices we make, more than we probably realise at the time. Especially in the spiritual supermarket of the west, where we literally can select our spiritual path of choice with every option on the table.
I think people need to make their decisions by listening to their heart and going to the deepest part of themselves, whether spiritual or a more secular based decision, if others are forcing our hand due to a more fundamentalist approach in any life aspect it is wrong. All I can do is present this teaching alongside all of the others.
But what is really making the decisions, there are two realities the reality of Other-Power and the reality of our Karma, is the individual really deciding based on the ego, or is the ego taking credit for everything although fundamentally an illusion?
One famous Pure Land Buddhist, stated “All is Other Power”.
The compassionate intent of Amitabha is the fundamental aspect of the Pure Land. Once born there that intent continues. It is like the Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. The wish that all beings escape calamities. If we read about all the dangers of the triple realm, either in the Ksitigharba Bodhisattva Sutra or in the truly amazing Ojoyoshu by Genshin. We would become frightened of our transgressions and our inherent Karmic Evil.
However the fundamental intent of the 48 great Vows are the great medicine to the working of Karma and the great dangers that most of us are oblivious to.
We are mostly oblivious of the delusional working of our Karmic mind, just following our inclinations based on previous cause and effect. Possibly understanding Shakyamuni Buddha’s fundamental teaching of the Four Noble Truths, understanding the predicament we are in, then it is left to what we can do about it.
The Original Vow of Amitabha Buddha was raised for this problem precisely, Amitabha made it easy for us to practice the medicine.
Just recite his name so as to be saved by Amitabha Buddha.
Whether we follow the practice of the 19th, 20th or 18th Vow, we are grasped and embraced. The 48 Great Vows are already fulfilled. Amitabha’s power is manifest he just seeks to save each individual stranded in Samsara oblivious to the dangers, locked in the prison of self-centred containment and separeteness. Looking for relief, but following delusion, sowing the seeds for future calamity. Amitabha watches on with deep compassion and deep concern waiting for the moment to the grant the unsurpassable benefit and the great blessing of Birth in the Pure Land through the simplest of means.
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If you don’t recognise the mind of karmic evil within yourself through some spiritual means, it is a problem, it means you are acting from it, the kilesas, karmic evil is in the driving seat. Utterly caught in the triple realm, headlong like a car with the foot down on the metal to a big crash repeatedly.
So consider some spiritual means to awaken to your own reality and the reality of the dharma, go for refuge to awareness, break the cycle.
Seek birth in the Pure Land through Amitabha’s compassion.
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The Key to eliciting a response from Amitabha Buddha is calling out with sincerity and earnestness.
This truth can also be transferred to other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also in a more mundane sense with living Dharma Masters and Teachers.
Whilst transfixed by the heavy burden of karmic evil, I hear the name from the Other Shore, the Pure Land, receive the mind-light of Mindfulness shining from the Other Shore, the Pure Land and think of the Deep Mind of Shinjin, of Deep Trust to the inconceivable working of Self-Nature Amitabha, Mind-Only Pure Land, or Jinen, or the Vow-Mind, the reality of Other Power, Infinite, Self Power no longer possible.
“Before birth in the Pure Land, Self-Nature Amitabha and Mind-Only Pure Land and the Western Pure Land and Amitabha as a reward body is one then two. After Birth in the Pure Land they are two yet one” – Patriarch Yin Kuang.
The Buddha embraces constantly, grasping the individual, the person to be saved by the Working of the Vow Power understands himself as nothing but Karmic Evil, this hapless self, through the working of the light, the name and the Vow, beyond conceptual understanding.
The Pure Land itself is manifest through the working of the 48 Vows of Amitabha Buddha. The Reward Body too. The Vow of the Light too and the Name and the Vow of Entrusting also.
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This post is in provoked by both my own personal spiritual situation, the current political climate in the UK / the World and some simple fundamental teaching from the most important being to grace this planet over 2500 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha. Yes despite all of the modern ‘progress’, Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching is still true, fundamentally true and still a panacea for the modern day problems, namely the Cause of Suffering is still, yes still, despite our technological progress, the Cause of Suffering. The Four Noble Truths are still, again still the framework to which to put all of our experience and the key to find some actual freedom from the ills of the world.
The only progress we have actually made technologically and other modern developments has only caused to compound the darkness and the suffering.
Because what is behind them is the Cause of Suffering, not the way to Liberation. Simply The Four Noble Truths.
In my case I practice Pure Land Buddhism and I firmly think this is the teaching which still has the potency and power to work and mitigate the problems of this Karmic Reality.
Because it is based entirely on the Power of Amida Buddha’s Vows, the Dynamic working of the Buddha-Mind, waiting for us to receive that reality and Trust it, knowing it as the working of the mind of great compassion, trying to penetrate the Karmic Reality, bound up with problems, the Cause of Suffering and consequently Suffering, what I like to call, The Great Imperfection.
The fundamental point both on a spiritual level and political level is What is the Root Cause of Suffering? Shakyamuni Buddha traced it back to Ignorance, but in Pure Land context and in the Light of Amida Buddha’s Mindfulness and Awareness, Mindfulness From the Buddha, not of the Buddha. We see with the help of good teachers the Cause of all our Suffering as: Self Centredness.
From the Root of Ignorance upwards in quick Cause & Effect the Karmic Mind, Cause of Suffering has four main way-stations. Ignorance causes Selfish Desire, Selfish Attachment then Sorrow, Pain, Grief Lamentation & Despair. So if we act out of this mind we Cause Suffering for ourselves and others, every time. If we are caught in our own Selfish Reality, we are both hurting ourselves and others, yet the Ego Reality would always like to strengthen itself and hurt us, like a good old fashioned malicious Demon, tricking us into actions which cause us and others pain in the short, middle and long term.
Acting out of Self-Interest is both lamentable and brings about a reaction of contempt. Whereas coming from a purer intention, both liberates and refreshes the mind. Again to roughly quote the Great Sage Buddha Shakyamuni, to act out of a Pure Mind, Happiness follows, to act out of an Impure Mind, Pain Follows. This is affecting both Self and Other in the Reality of Interdependence.
So despite our advancements and progress in many areas, there are serious problems in society, this is coming from the top down. The problem is profound self-interest.
When somebody like a good teacher communicates or transmits an important spiritual teaching for us, we can sense the intent, if it is coming from Great Compassion, we can entrust ourselves to that teaching. If the teacher is maybe doing it for his own personal fame or profit, intuitively we can’t trust it.
This is fundamentally the problem with this world and with the political landscape, their actions are coming from the Cause of Suffering and are motivated by it, hence this duality that Shaykamuni Buddha taught is the fundamental problem in society and in our hearts.
Now the Ego doesn’t like to be exposed, but it definitely likes to express and assert itself on others, whether personal achievement or something more malicious and sinister. The Buddhist Mind takes a lot of effort and personal courage and risk to gain a glimpse of, hence it is easier to become infatuated with ourselves. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching is simply, basically true.
Buddhism is about going for refuge to the Buddhist Mind, in my case Amida Buddha, the Awareness of Amida’s light, the substance of hearing the Name and the Inconceivable working of the Vow as both a Salvific Power and Realisation of Faith, that we Entrust ourselves to Amida Buddha as something we can fundamentally trust as we know within ourselves it is Pure, the Mind of Great Compassion and not based in the Cause of Suffering.
Finally if we understand and have had pointed out to us our own Cause of Suffering, namely the Self-Centred Mind, we no longer need to be tricked by it’s own blind working, yet we still will continue to be as it is very subtle, insidious and very powerful, constantly working and arising without pause.
So finally I would exhort people to seek a refuge and understand that the problems of the world, Shakyamuni Buddha pointed out over 2500 years ago. We can fight to change the World into our own Image, but this is the certain way of conflict, what we need to do is find the actual Cause of Suffering within ourselves and ultimately liberate ourselves from the World through the entirety of Amida’s working, through the Nembutsu and the heart of True Entrusting and going for refuge to the Great Consoler, Amida Buddha.
Namu Amida Butsu
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I was reading some Zuiken Sensei this week, it was very powerful I recommend it, he’s was one of those Buddhist Masters in my eyes that takes the Dharma to another level that few are able to take it, which then enables a purer more potent Dharma Transmission, you can read Here.
One point he made was in quoting D.T Suzuki, who is famous for bringing Zen to the West, but also had a deep interest in Pure Land Buddhism – Jodo Shinshu.
Quoting directly from Zuiken Sensei’s 7th Letter to the Rev Jack Austin, Which is Here
“Dr Suzuki says: Amida extends his arms of help only when we realise that all our self-power is of no account. But I would say: Only when we become aware of the inconceivable Wisdom and Vow-Power, do we know that our self-power is of no account and of no avail.”
This made me think about my own process / journey on the Pure Land Path, which began with the 19th Vow, then the 20th Vow, finally finding a refuge in the 18th Vow, which is the Vow on which Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is based.
I read quite a lot of the Rev George Gatenby who wrote that this specific journey through the Vows is Amitabha Buddha preparing the individual for each stage in the journey.
One of the most critical points of this journey is the transition from Self-Power effort, mixed-effort, to complete Entrusting.
Going for Refuge to Amitabha Buddha, his Dynamic Salvific Activity. Namely Faith the substance of which is the Nembutsu, Hearing the Name that calls from the Pure Land, the Other Shore to the individual bound up with Causality.
But in the complete Embrace of Amitabha Buddha and Awakening to the Vow-Power, Other-Power and complete Trust to that Power, which causes Birth in the Pure Land and the participation of the continued work of Amitabha’a Original Vow.
Relating to my own experience that I got reminded of in reading Zuiken Sensei’s letter, was that I really struggled to give up Self-Power, the mental scenario was like if I stop doing my Self-Power practices my mind would be engulfed in darkness, What would happen then….?!
I’ve done an awful lot of these practices and I know others too from my first Buddhist Tradition, the Thai Forest Tradition, in which I was ordained for about 5 years, they and I at that time, simply could not accept the Eighteenth Vow, simply cannot accept that there is a form of Buddhism, which doesn’t impose precepts. “If I’m going to get there I’ve got to do everything I can myself, Jodo Shinshu sounds like Christianity, there’s little hope for you now!”
Also many Buddhists will struggle to accept that there is a form of Buddhism for Ordinary People that becomes a primary way of practice for them, whilst reintegrating in the world leading an ordinary life. In Theravada it is generally seen apart from the odd rare exception that the lay people support the Monks whilst they do the work and hope for a better opportunity next time around!
In the Pure Land path I started out saying Amitabha with other practices, Rev George Gatenby described the 19th Vow part of the journey as like living in the Age of Right Dharma, which basically means as if you were practicing in the time of or close to Shakyamuni Buddha. I think with some teachers recently that is also still the case, they have a potency through their practice, which enables the student to make significant progress, whereas in a lot of cases it can be like killing time, however still hugely important and significantly valuable.
When you transition to the 20th Vow, just saying the Buddha’s name with your own effort it is like the Semblance Dharma Age, then the transition to the 18th Vow, you are squarely in Mappo, the current Dark Age, where deception and other nefarious qualities become powerful, where to roughly quote George Orwell – “The Age Where Deception reigns, so much so telling the truth would be a revolutionary act.”
The major feature of the Pure Land path from the beginning however is an indestructible Aspiration for Birth in the Pure Land which is like your North Star guiding you on the path, always forwards to the refuge of the Original Vow.
There came a time for me that the Buddha ended my tenacious Self-Power Practicing Mind, it was a moment on the path in Total Darkness, but as your confidence and direct experience and trust in Other-Power grows there’s a time when it happens. Then the journey becomes less afflicted, less torn, until you can Hear the Name clearly calling from the Pure Land, the substance of Faith in the Jodo Shinshu.
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In my previous writing I wrote about the transition from Calling to the Buddha through the Name to Hearing the Name. From the practice of reciting with Self-Power to Entrusting to the Vow-Mind, namely Other-Power. From creating your own stockpile of merits and virtue, to the renouncing of Self-Power and Self-Effort and the transference of Virtue from Amitabha Buddha, the Original Vow and the Name.
Now in this writing I’m going to focus on the role of Mindfulness and Awareness within the scope of practice of the Eighteenth Vow. The Vow of Trust to the Reality of Amitabha Buddha and his Dynamic Activity.
Mindfulness is a central piece to all Buddhist Practices, it is generally what Buddhists do as a practice along with Concentration usually with the actual point of Mindfulness, like Mindfulness of Breathing or Mindfulness of Mind, a point of Awareness, that then is performed along with skilful acts of Virtue that enable the practitioner to move along the Buddhist Path, namely the Noble Eightfold Path, the practice built on the foundation of Virtue and Concetration / Awareness gives rise to Wisdom and Insights that transform that person’s life. This in a nutshell is the Path of the Sages, the Savaka Vehicle.
At the point of Faith Attainment in Pure Land Buddhism, there is also Mindfulness.
As I wrote about in my last post, there is a point on the Pure Land Path where Self-Effort dies, enabling the person to move clearly forwards on this path and entrust entirely to Other-Power, the Vow-Mind of Amitabha Buddha.
The different mechanics are Settled Faith, Assured Faith, Trust, Hearing the Name, Awakenedness to the Reality of Amitabha Buddha, the Original Vow or Vow-Mind and the Individual’s Karmic Reality. Which is Amitabha’s Mind-Light shining on the individual illuminating them and revealing their Karmic Existence just as-it-is.
This relationship between the two dynamics of Amitabha and the Individual is the hallmark of the path of Pure Land Faith, but the point I want to focus on is the relationship between this shore, the Karmic Reality and the other shore, Nibbana, The Pure Land. Which is dynamic through the Vow-Mind coming about through the Compassionate decision and motivation of the Dharmakaya itself, to save living beings from the arduous and perilous Karmic Existence we are bound to through the force of Past Karma and our minds of clinging and grasping.
So in my experience the Mindfulness From the Buddha as opposed to the self-effort and cultivation inclined Mindfulness Of the Buddha is the Buddha watching us From the Other Shore, The Pure Land, the Vow-Heart, the Mind of Great Compassion, it’s important to understand that this is internal not external.
The Buddha sees our Karmic Reality just as-it-is, but through the gift of Faith and Hearing the Name and Awakenedness to his and our Reality, both dynamic we are in the Compassionate Embrace of Amitabha Buddha impossible to escape.
The inner sense of Mindfulness From the Buddha the Other Shore watching this shore in an unbreakable bond, shows us the Way Things Are, but we don’t need to cultivate strenuously fighting to escape. Self-Power is done with we just Entrust to the Buddha and continue to Hear and the Say the Name – Amitabha.
It is hard to break the addiction of Self-Power Effort, but the Buddha will cause that when the time is right.
Infact we start saying the Name with Self-Effort and it is up to the Buddha to decide whether the time is right for the individual to embark on the Pure Land Path. ‘Call the Name and illicit a response from Amitabha Buddha’.
What is important is to realise the Truth of Being Embraced by Amitabha Buddha and Never Forsaken.
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In the Pure Land Buddhist tradition to which I belong there is a Buddha called Amitabha. The important aspect of Pure Land Buddhism is Amitabha’s 48 Vows. Three in particular are the most important the 18th, 19th and 20th. Because they concern the actual practitioner’s point on the Pure Land path.
There is a transition on the Pure Land path where your practice through each Vow, the 19th, the 20th then finally the 18th.
Practitioners may feel drawn to Pure Land practice and Amitabha Buddha himself and start reciting his name ‘Amitabha’. They may do this with other practices from other traditions. This is the essence of the 19th Vow.
Then naturally the other practices will fall away and the practitioner will recite only ‘Amitabha’. Literally calling to the Buddha, very powerful practices and feeling very close to that Buddha. Maybe the practitioner will think the Buddha exists in the Pure Land external to himself and have a sense of attachment to a duality.
The 20th Vow is the practice of Chinese Pure Land Buddhism where the emphasis is placed on reciting the name and transferring the merits, also reciting the name at the time of death in order to be born in the Pure Land, however the faith of the practitioner is not settled and there may be a nagging uncertainty as to whether they will be born in the Pure Land. it is essentially ‘unsettled faith’ and calling to the Buddha and depending in a mixed way on the practitioners virtues and the virtues of the Buddha. There may be a strong desire to enter the gate of the 18th Vow, that of ‘settled faith’ and no doubt.
The 18th Vow unlike the 20th Vow requires the need of a teacher already endowed with settled faith to transmit the dharma of the 18th Vow in order for the practitioner to realise ‘settled faith’.
Essentially this is the point for the practitioner to completely renounce their own self-effort, no mixed-effort and entrust entirely to the power of Amitabha Buddha and the 18th Vow or Original Vow. This is a process of realisation that happens to the practitioner entirely in the embrace or grasp of the Buddha, as the Buddha’s power directly works in this process on the practitioner or karmic individual. In truth the entire process form the 19th Vow is the Buddha’s power, but at this point the self-effort dies and the struggle and conflict between the practitioner’s effort and the Buddha’s power becomes clear.
Essentially this is clearing the way for the Awakening of Pure Faith in the Buddha and realisation. What is that realisation?
It is an awakening based on the Four Noble Truths, awakening to the deep reality of Amitabha Buddha, the Original or 18th Vow and the Name or Nembutsu, which is no longer recited by the individual in mixed-effort, but coming directly from the deepest place of the heart, the mind of Amitabha Buddha himself, our True Nature and the awakening to our Karmic Reality. What enables this is the Original Vow, which is essentially a dynamic working of the Buddha’s mind, saying the name and forging a very real relationship between Amitabha and the Karmic Individual. This is the essence of Faith in Pure Land and Amitabha Buddha.
This awakening is known as Amitabha’s light shining on the practitioner like a mind-light, this light shows the individual the very reality of his karma in the light of the Buddha, whilst at the same time being awakened to the dynamic reality of this Buddha deep within, the Original Vow and the Name. It is essentially a process of Karmic Problems arising and then being solved by this working, a full proof dynamic, which is not a belief or hope but a realisation. Pure Land faith often equates to the bigger the karmic problem, the more emphatic the solution through the power of the Buddha’s Vow
The other aspects of this realisation is the practitioner’s faith is settled beyond doubt and birth into the Pure Land is assured. There is no longer a duality to an external attachment ‘outside’, but a non-dual faith in Amitabha, who resides deep within. if Amitabha has form this is no longer a qualm for the practitioner of settled faith. The faith is based around the reality of Amitabha Buddha deep within and the Vow’s dynamic working.
The actual faith is a trust between the individual and the Buddha, like a child to a parent, however the trust or entrusting is the other-power and gifted to the practitioner. If the trust were created through the individual’s effort it is self-power faith and not authentic, in that case the practitioner is still dwelling in the 20th Vow and needs to find a good teacher to transmit other-power faith.
The final aspect is that the Pure Land no longer seems to be a place, but Nibbana itself and there is the aspect of the individual sensing the other shore, whilst still living out his karmic problems on this shore.
It all begins with the individual calling out to Amitabha, turning through the Vows and finally renouncing his self-effort through the Buddha’s power and the process and finally Entrusting to that reality of which there is no doubt whatsoever.
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My first driving force towards practicing the dharma was an acute sense of suffering, I knew there was a problem, a predicament, I could experience it closely, without any sense of perspective and I had to seek some medicine for the pain, but needless to say there was confusion – a lot of confusion.
I used to drink down the pub in my teenage years in Leamington Spa, society, culture, pressure from our peers would tell us what we needed to do to be happy, all of it coming from a narrow perspective locked in the material dimension. I used to walk back from the pub, feeling this can’t be all of it, this can’t be solution, there is so much suffering.
I remember one night in an infamous nightclub in Leamington Spa, getting into a deep discussion with a fellow factory nightshift worker about the meaning of life, he told me with sympathy: ‘If you’re looking for the meaning of life Ant. There isn’t one…’
I tried just about everything in that short period of time, mostly hedonistic, but there was always something broken, unresolved about the experience of life, and the solutions to hand didn’t soothe the wounds.
Finally I went to University where I started my Philosophy studies, maybe these guys with their immense intellects had the answers, but I also continued on an intensely hedonistic path most of the time, with a bit of Husserl thrown in.
What I was doing internally is what we all do and what I still do now is ‘housebuilding’. When the Buddha attained enlightenment he stated the ‘housebuilder’ had been vanquished. This means the mind that builds up it’s own world of clinging and attachment, based on ignorance at the root and through desire, we go out, we project out, we have our worlds, our agendas, our priorities, things change as they always do, we gain, we lose and we rebuild. Is it certain? Is it solid, substantial? Do we know? Are we just following impulses? Are we desperate for security, comfort, warmth, a sense of home?
I did all of this, then at 19, my best friend at University died suddenly, my whole house collapsed, I realised that what I was hoping for out of life couldn’t exist due to the possibility of sudden change, impermanence. So instinctively I went deeper. But all of this was happening to me and what was seeking out the remedy, searching for something I didn’t know existed.
It was at this point I started to come across Buddhism, just by chance, but every encounter whether through a magazine, a TV programme, there was a direct magnetic dart-like pull. I dropped out of University, came home, then came across a local Monastery that taught and practiced Theravadan Buddhism. I dropped in, impressed by the peace and kindness and the pointing towards something deeper, I stayed for a while.
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